News & Updates

In cooperation with the American Ambulance Association, we and others have created a running compilation of local and national news stories relating to EMS delivery. Since January, 2021, over 1,900 news reports have been chronicled, with 49% highlighting the EMS staffing crisis, and 34% highlighting the funding crisis. Combined reports of staffing and/or funding account for 83% of the media reports! 96 reports cite EMS system closures/agencies departing communities, and 95% of the news articles reference staffing challenges, funding issues and response times.

Click below for an up to date list of these news stories, with links to the source documents.

Read Only - Media Log as of 4-8-24.xlsx

  • 23 Aug 2023 1:17 PM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    Tip of the hat to Kolby Miller for finding and forwarding this Op Ed…


    Ambulance 'response times' miss the big picture: health outcomes

    Mississippi Ambulance Alliance Board Members

    Special to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger

    August 23, 2023 August 23, 2023


    No one would dream of requiring that every patient seen in emergency rooms across our state is treated within 12 minutes. 

    Such a stringent and arbitrary requirement would be dangerous to those most in need of urgent attention and unaffordable if not impossible to implement. 

    A broken arm is bad, but a cardiac arrest, stroke or bleeding from a severe motor vehicle trauma takes precedent. So, emergency rooms “triage” patients to determine an order of response. And we all accept that. Even if we don’t like sitting in the ER a little longer.

    We get it.

    Yet, in 2023, that is how we continue to measure Emergency Medical Services and ambulance responses: How quickly was the truck there?

    “Response Times” are the loudest complaint, both locally and around the country — regardless of whether a private or public ambulance is responding. Everyone is, understandably, mad the ambulance isn’t right here, right now. And in many if not most instances, the ambulance providers agree — they want to be on scene sooner.

    But that system is showing its fragility everywhere.

    A national survey of ambulance providers by the National Association of EMTs found 65% reporting a significant decline in job applicants compared to 2019. Over half of the news stories in local media across the nation are about shortages of paramedics and EMTs. 

    Emergency 911 call volume in many jurisdictions is on the upswing, while the number of paramedics and EMTs is falling.

    Ambulance providers are conducting their own in-house certification courses just to keep up. On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, one ambulance provider is recruiting and training students in high schools, showing them a pathway into a healthcare field that has a high demand for workers throughout the nation.

    But it’s not just a paramedic shortage that is straining ambulance response. Ambulances are just the last domino in a healthcare worker shortage chain.

    The ambulance you are waiting on is more likely than not already at an emergency room, waiting to unload a patient at an understaffed hospital. That hospital can’t find enough nurses to hire to care for those and other patients, meaning EMTs can’t transfer the patient in the back of their ambulance.

    “Ambulance response time” is just the most public face of a national healthcare provider shortage that stretches back into hospitals, clinics and even some 911 dispatch centers that can’t hire people to answer the telephones.

    Further, compounding this, our EMS system was built around a hospital system that is rapidly evolving. As more complex procedures are performed at fewer and fewer hospitals in urban centers, ambulances and their teams in the most rural parts of the state spend more time on the road, taking patients to and from those advanced hospitals, and less time in their home county waiting to respond.

    Nobody should be faulted for wanting an ambulance at their doorstep within seconds of when they call 911, especially those facing truly severe illness or accidents when minutes and seconds will make the difference. That should be the goal.

    To achieve that shared goal, communities around the country are rethinking Emergency Medical Services.

    For example, there is a tiered ambulance response system where basic lifesaving (BLS) ambulances are used for appropriate 911 calls in addition to advanced lifesaving (ALS) ambulances. These BLS calls are determined by a trained and certified emergency medical dispatcher (EMD). Not only does this get the appropriate level of care to the caller, but it also allows ALS ambulances to be available for lifesaving calls.

    These complex health challenges won’t be fixed overnight. Nor will they be cured by simply demanding a faster response.  In fact, it may make things worse, incentivizing trip volume and truck speed over triage. In fact, simply demanding all ambulances drive faster can actually put more people in the hospital due accidents.

    Ambulances today are intensive care units on wheels. They are extraordinarily expensive, staffed by dedicated and well-trained first responders who consider their work a calling, much like police officers and our fire fighters who are being trained and equipped to be a part of the chain of survival.

    Let’s leverage telemedicine, let’s reward EMS responders for treating non-urgent medical issues on the scene (in consultation with a physician) and when appropriate let’s refer patients to a clinic during normal hours. Let’s use this moment to build a new, coordinated EMS system that can triage 911 calls and ensure the patients who need the quickest response can get it. 

    Counties, cities, hospitals, paramedics, EMTs and ambulance providers — along with insurers and healthcare payors – should use this moment to work together to build systems that focus on good patient outcomes: systems that get patients the care they need, when and where they need it. 

    We should not simply turn up the stopwatch on a model [that] creates a race to push everyone into understaffed emergency rooms. 

  • 23 Aug 2023 7:39 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    Regionalization of EMS (and 911 communication centers) has been a growing topic of conversation in local communities, state legislatures, and even Congress.

    It often results in more clinically proficient, operationally effective, and fiscally efficient services across larger service areas. It also tends to help with staffing challenges.

    During a recent conversation with a member of Congress, we were asked if it would make sense for federal or state governments to support regionalization efforts with incentive funding for consolidation of services.

    We were also asked to provide some examples of effective regional EMS systems.


    Rep. Johnson encourages talks of regionalizing EMS

    by: Gerry Ricciutti

    Aug 21, 2023

    BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – As local communities wrestle with providing quality emergency medical services across Mahoning County, they heard from a potentially unifying voice.

    Monday morning, local fire chiefs, trustees and others heard from Congressman Bill Johnson (R).

    “I would want to look at every option and I think they oughta look at regionalization,” Johnson said.

    The congressman’s suggestion comes as two local departments, Boardman and Canfield, have been talking about a possible merger for weeks. Boardman is one of only a handful of departments not offering at least some sort of EMS, and the chief says he’d like to see that changed.

    “I wanna be part of something that propels this area forward. I think it’s time we really look at things and put our egos aside and do the right thing,” said Boardman Fire Chief Mark Pitzer.

    Retired YSU Professor Joe Mistovich was also in the audience and has studied regionalization. He says there have always been roadblocks.

    “I think that’s what we need, is somebody from the outside to come in and say, let’s everybody come to the table. Let’s seriously talk about this,” Mistovich said.

    Another crucial issue for those in attendance — the levels for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for EMS, something the congressman admits will be a very big hurdle to cross over.

    Johnson told the group that making changes to the federal system would take time the local communities may not have.

    Still, he urged the group to reach out to state lawmakers to see what can be done in Columbus.

    “I’m gonna see the governor this evening and I’m gonna whisper in his ear and mention this as well,” Johnson said.

    In the meantime, the possible merger between Boardman and Canfield could start taking shape by this time next year.

  • 23 Aug 2023 7:38 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    When the Center for Medicaid sent the attached communication to state Medicaid offices last August, some of us opined that this would be a likely next step in the review of GEMT programs.

    It will be very interesting to see which states they choose, the findings from the audits, and what they plan to do if they determine overpayments have been made for uncovered services?

    We hope these reviews are done expeditiously, as several state plan amendment (SPA) applications for GEMT programs are being withheld by CMS, pending further review. These delays hurt ambulance providers who are under reimbursed by state Medicaid programs.


    Audit of Ambulance Services Supplemental Payment Program

    Some States have implemented uncompensated care payment programs that allow ambulance providers to receive supplemental payments for services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries and uninsured patients. We will conduct audits of selected States to determine whether the States' claims for Federal reimbursement for supplement payments to these providers complied with Federal and State requirements.

  • 22 Aug 2023 2:14 PM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    An EMS partnership with a H@H provider is a logical use of MIH and ambulance resources.


    What the hospital-at-home movement tells us about igniting innovation in health care

    By James B. Rebitzer and Robert S. Rebitzer

    Aug. 21, 2023

    As a health care economist who studies innovation, and as a management consultant who helps health systems and insurers adopt new technologies, we have had a ringside seat to a frustrating phenomenon: The large private sector of the U.S. health system can move faster to adopt valuable innovations than the public sector burdened by red tape and politics. But before adopting an innovation at scale, the private sector too often waits for the public sector to take the first step — sometimes for decades.

    Consider the case of “hospital at home,” a fast-moving, innovative model that delivers acute hospital care to patients in their own homes. Hospital at home has made headlines recently, but it could have achieved scale far sooner if incentives to invest in the model had been properly aligned.

    Hospital-at-home programs have been studied since the 1970s. However, neither health systems nor payers were willing to invest in the concept at scale until the official Covid-19 public health emergency, during which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services temporarily allowed Medicare to reimburse for hospital-at-home services under the Acute Hospital Care at Home Waiver.

    Since the waiver was adopted in November 2020, hospital at home has taken on the quality of an emerging movement with more and more hospitals participating, driven in part by the rising demand of aging baby boomers and the desire to avoid spending the many billions of dollars needed to build new hospitals. Thanks to an extension from Congress, the waiver remains in effect for now despite the public health emergency declaration ending in March 2023.

    Studies find that hospital-at-home programs are associated with reductions in mortality and cost as well as increases in patient satisfaction. So why did the U.S. health sector wait to take up hospital-at-home hospital strategies until a national public health emergency forced CMS to act?

    Hospital-at-home programs require substantial upfront investments in new processes, new technologies, and additional specialized personnel. Hospitals will make this investment if they can expect reimbursement sufficient to assure a return on the investment.

    These upfront costs create a strategic dilemma for payers. No single payer may have enough enrollees at the hospital to justify reimbursements large enough to cover the hospital-at-home investment. On the other hand, reimbursement could be justified if all the payers agree to reimburse hospital-at-home services, because the costs of the investment would be spread across many more members. Pilot programs may arise here and there, but absent some external coordinating push, no single payer will invest in hospital-at-home at scale.

    Economists call this a common-agency problem because it results from many payers contracting with a shared or common agent — here, the hospital. Health care is rife with such problems, which can slow the uptake of valuable innovations for patients and society. But the hospital-at-home story also illustrates how to manage the problem.

    The Acute Hospital Care at Home Waiver relieved the common-agency problem by authorizing reimbursement for a significant portion of the hospital’s upfront investment, making it easier for private payers to follow CMS’ lead.

    As more private payers support hospital-at-home programs, they strengthen the economic case for other payers by spreading the upfront costs among more members. In this way, hospital at home can move from a novel innovation to a viable way to deliver acute care even though Medicare’s temporary waiver may expire — as it is currently scheduled to do in December 2024.

    The example of hospital-at-home illustrates four ways to get innovation moving when adoption seems stalled:

    Jump-starting: Commitment to reimbursement by a sufficiently large and influential payer can spark innovation. For hospital at home, CMS played the role of jump-starter of last resort. However, a jump start does not need to come from CMS. For example, commercial payers and self-insured employers with a large enough share of a hospital’s patients can also stimulate adoption.

    Information sharing: Incentives alone may not be enough to spur action, particularly for a sweeping innovation like hospital at home. Standard methods and tools are also needed. Bruce Leff, a geriatrician and professor at John Hopkins School of Medicine, and other early innovators in hospital at home have formed the Hospital at Home Users Group to share best practices for the design and implementation of hospital-at-home programs.

    Reducing uncertainty and enhancing confidence: The temporary Acute Hospital Care at Home Waiver was enough to get adoption started in some hospitals. However, if the waiver were made permanent, uncertainty about the program would be reduced and progress would likely be faster and more widespread. Congress has extended the waiver once since the public health emergency ended but only on a temporary basis. The waiver is currently scheduled to expire in December 2024.

    Creating a professional and social consensus: When innovations further the goals of health and healing, rather than pecuniary interests, professional and social norms can help overcome incentive problems. Institutional support is also critical for building consensus. Both the American Hospital Association and the Society of Hospital Medicine have reported favorably on hospital-at-home programs, helping create support for change among providers and the public.

    Sometimes the complex and pluralistic U.S. health care system can be slow to innovate. In such cases, aligning incentives for all parties to participate fully may be just what is needed to get things moving.

    James B. Rebitzer is the Peter and Deborah Wexler professor of management at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. Robert S. Rebitzer is a national adviser at Manatt Health. Formerly he was a partner in the health care strategy practice at Accenture and a vice president of UnitedHealth Group. They are the authors of “Why Not Better and Cheaper?: Healthcare and Innovation.”

  • 15 Aug 2023 9:51 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    Some fire departments are responding to fewer medical calls, here's why

    Johnathan Hogan

    Port Huron Times Herald

    August 13, 2023

    The next time you call 911 to report a medical emergency, it's less likely a firefighter will join EMS responders.

    A new protocol adopted by several St. Clair County fire departments has changed how they coordinate with Tri-Hospital Emergency Medical Services to respond to medical calls.

    With a few exceptions, fire departments will only respond to medical incidents classified as protocol Delta or protocol Echo, the most serious and life-threatening medical incidents.

    The change in emergency response was made to reduce the risk that firefighters will all be tied up in non-emergency calls in the event of a structure fire or other major incident only the fire department could address.

    When will you see the fire department respond to your medical emergency?

    Previously, both firefighters and Tri-Hospital EMS would respond to calls classified as Bravo and Charlie, the mid-level classification of calls, as well as Delta and Echo. Now, firefighters will no longer respond to those mid-level, non-emergency calls.

    Exceptions will be made if it would take more than eight minutes to respond to the emergency.

    Tri-Hospital EMS will still respond to all medical calls they receive, according to Ken Cummings, the CEO. The policy change applies only to firefighters. 

    The St. Clair County Medical Control Authority adopted the new policy in February after receiving a unanimous endorsement from county fire department chiefs and a draft of the recommended changes. The policy change officially took effect in April.

    The recommendation to change the policy came after the county fire departments and the Medical Control Authority conducted a study to learn how to reduce the number of responses by firefighters.

    In recent years firefighters and other emergency responders have seen staffing decreases. Fire departments have seen less applications in new job postings even as the number of calls increases each year, so local fire chiefs looked for ways to reduce non-serious calls to make sure a team is always available in case of a fire.

    Port Huron Township Fire Department Chief Andrew Persig endorsed the change in a presentation to Port Huron Township officials at a July 17 meeting.

    “Responding to non-emergency incidents ties up fire personnel and makes them unavailable during an incident where firefighters are actually needed,” Persig wrote in a presentation.

    Sixteen of St. Clair County’s fire departments have accepted this change. Six, however, have adopted an alternate policy of responding to every single medical call, regardless of the classification. Those include Kimball Township, Algonac Fire Department, Grant Township Fire Department, Greenwood Township Fire Department, Ira Township Fire Department and Kenockee Township Fire Department.

    Cummings, who is a member of the Medical Control Authority, said firefighters who went to Bravo and Charlie calls sometimes had little to do to help emergency medical technicians on a call.

    “There were times where all they would do is hold open the door,” Cummings said. “Clearly, that’s an unnecessary use of resources.”

  • 7 Aug 2023 8:26 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    Interesting report from News4 Detroit on the ongoing EMS staffing issues in Detroit Fire Department.

    The latest example that the staffing crisis is impacting EMS agencies across the country, regardless of provider type.

  • 7 Aug 2023 8:21 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    More trouble for the IDR process…


    Surprise billing arbitration halted (again)

    Tina Reed


    The process providers and insurers use for settling surprise billing disputes was halted after a federal court found the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services improperly hiked the fee for requesting arbitration.

    Why it matters: It's another hiccup for the arbitration system, known as the independent dispute resolution process. It's also the second time this year the IDR process has been halted after a court ruling.

    What happened: A federal judge sided with the Texas Medical Association in a lawsuit that argued CMS failed to follow proper notice-and-comment procedure when it raised the fee for participating in the IDR process from $50 to $350. CMS upped the fee in December, citing "increasing expenditures in carrying out the Federal IDR process."

    • CMS on Friday evening said it temporarily suspended the IDR process, including the ability to file new disputes.

    Catch up quick: The arbitration system has been loaded up with disputes, meaning some cases have dragged on for months. Some providers have also recently complained that insurers have ignored or failed to fully adhere to arbitration rulings.

    • The IDR system was paused for about five weeks earlier this year after the same Texas physician group challenged a separate part of the IDR process, which it said favored insurers.

  • 7 Aug 2023 8:21 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    Something for us to keep in mind as we go through the GAPBAC process and efforts to potentially use arbitration as a solution….


    Docs say insurers ignore surprise billing decisions

    Tina Reed

    August 3, 2023

    Insurers are sometimes ignoring rulings to pay providers, or failing to pay them in full, under the arbitration system established by the new federal surprise billing law, providers tell Axios.

    Why it matters: The No Surprises Act, a bipartisan effort to limit unexpected out-of-network medical bills, required that insurers and providers undergo an independent arbitration process to settle their differences without involving patients. The complaints from providers are the latest snag with the arbitration system that launched last year.

    Driving the news: Some providers say they received letters from insurers explicitly saying they won't honor an arbitration award because they view them as "unenforceable" and "not binding," according to the Americans for Fair Health Care, a coalition of clinical and advocacy organizations.

    • The leading trade groups representing doctors and hospitals also said they've heard complaints from their members about not receiving arbitration awards. "This undermines the careful balance Congress struck in the No Surprises Act and threatens to destabilize already financially strapped providers," said Molly Smith, vice president of policy for the American Hospital Association.

    The other side: Insurers have said providers are bogging down the arbitration system with frivolous challenges to billing decisions. They also say arbitrators are bundling multiple decisions together in a way that's contributing to administrative delays.

    What they're saying: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and other federal agencies regulating surprise billing have received a number of complaints regarding late payments following arbitration, a CMS spokesperson confirmed.

    • The agency "is actively investigating and addressing complaints regarding late payments," the spokesperson said, adding the statute is clear that the arbitration process is binding unless there is evidence of fraud.

    What we're watching: Whether CMS will make further changes to the arbitration process in response to providers' complaints — or whether litigation challenging that system, such as one lawsuit from the Texas Medical Association, may force the agency's hand.

  • 1 Aug 2023 11:05 PM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    The wage war, especially in public safety, is likely not sustainable. A recent study by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) found that 82% of centers reported being understaffed and struggling with hiring and retention, with respondents citing stress and low pay as the top obstacles to attracting and keeping staff.

    This is one reason communities are considering, and DOING, regional consolidation of services.

    It is also a primary reason for the EMS worker shortage, leading agencies to require funding to raise front-line wages to maintain staffing and service levels.


    Mounting job vacancies push state and local governments into a wage war for workers


    July 28, 2023

    FULTON, Mo. (AP) — At the entrance to Missouri prisons, large signs plead for help: “NOW HIRING” ... “GREAT PAY & BENEFITS.”

    No experience is necessary. Anyone 18 and older can apply. Long hours are guaranteed.

    Though the assertion of “great pay” for prison guards would have seemed dubious in the past, a series of state pay raises prompted by widespread vacancies has finally made a difference. The Missouri Department of Corrections set a record for new applicants last month.

    “After we got our raise, we started seeing people come out of the woodwork, people that hadn’t worked in a while,” said Maj. Albin Narvaez, chief of custody at the Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center, where new prisoners are housed and evaluated.

    Public employers across the U.S. have faced similar struggles to fill jobs, leading to one of the largest surges in state government pay raises in 15 years. Many cities, counties and school districts also are hiking wages to try to retain and attract workers amid aggressive competition from private sector employers.

    The wage war comes as governments and taxpayers feel the consequences of empty positions.

    In Kansas City, Missouri, a shortage of 911 operators doubled the average hold times for people calling in emergencies. In one Florida county, some schoolchildren frequently arrived late as a lack of bus drivers delayed routes. In Arkansas, abused and neglected kids remained longer in foster care because of a caseworker shortage. In various cities and states, vacancies on road crews meant cracks and potholes took longer to fix than many motorists might like.

    “A lot of the jobs we’re talking about are hard jobs,” said Leslie Scott Parker, executive director of the National Association of State Personnel Executives.

    Lingering vacancies “eventually affects service to the public or response times to needs,” she added.

    Workforce shortages worsened across all sorts of jobs due to a wave of retirements and resignations that began during the pandemic. Many businesses, from restaurants to hospitals, responded nimbly with higher wages and incentives to attract employees. But governments by nature are slower to act, requiring pay raises to go through a legislative process that can take months to complete — and then can take months more to kick in.

    Meanwhile, vacancies mounted.

    In Georgia, state employee turnover hit a high of 25% in 2022. Thousands of workers left the Department of Corrections, pushing its vacancy rate to around 50%. The state began a series of pay raises. This year, all state employees and teachers got at least a $2,000 raise, with corrections officers getting $4,000 and state troopers $6,000.

    The Georgia Department of Corrections used an ad agency to bolster recruitment and held an average of 125 job fairs a month. It’s starting to pay off. In the first week of July, the department received 318 correctional officer applications — nearly double the weekly norm, said department Public Affairs Director Joan Heath.

    Almost 1 in 4 positions — more than 2,500 jobs -- were empty in the Missouri Department of Corrections late last year, which was twice the pre-pandemic vacancy rate in 2019.

    Missouri gave state workers a 7.5% pay raise in 2022. This spring, Gov. Mike Parson signed an emergency spending bill with an additional 8.7% raise, plus an extra $2 an hour for people working evening and night shifts at prisons, mental health facilities and other institutions. The vacancy rate for entry level corrections officers now is declining, and the average number of applications for all state positions is up 18% since the start of last year.

    At the Fulton prison, where staff shortages have led to a standard 52-hour work week, newly hired employees can earn around $60,000 annually — an amount roughly equal to the state’s median household income. The prison also is proposing to provide free childcare to correctional officers willing to work nights.

    If prison staffing is too low, “it can get dangerous” for both inmates and guards, Narvaez said.

    Public safety concerns also have arisen in Kansas City, where a country music fan attacked before a concert last month waited four minutes for a 911 call to be answered and an hour for an ambulance [from Kansas City Fire Department] to arrive. About one-quarter of 911 call center positions are vacant — “a huge factor” in the longer wait times to answer calls, said Tamara Bazzle, assistant manager of the communications unit for the Kansas City Police Department.

    In Biddeford, Maine, a 15-person roster of 911 dispatchers dipped to just eight employees in July as people quit a “pressure cooker job” for less stress or better pay elsewhere, Police Chief JoAnne Fisk said. The city is now offering fully certified dispatchers $41 an hour to help plug the gaps on a part-time basis — $10 an hour more than comparable new workers normally would earn.

    This month, Biddeford also launched a $2,000 bonus for city employees who refer others who get jobs. That comes a year after Biddeford adopted a four-day work week with paid lunch periods to try to make jobs more appealing, said City Manager Jim Bennett.

    To attract workers, other governments have dropped college degree requirements and spiced up drab job descriptions.

    Nationally, the turnover rate in state and local governments is twice the average of the previous two decades, according to federal labor statistics.

    Uncompetitive wages were the most common reason for leaving cited in exit interviews, according to a survey of 249 state and local government human resource managers conducted by MissionSquare Research Institute, a Washington, D.C. -based nonprofit. The hardest positions to fill included police and corrections officers, doctors, nurses, engineers and jobs requiring commercial driver’s licenses.

    Along Florida’s east coast, the Brevard County transit system and school district have been competing for bus drivers. On days when drivers are lacking, the transit system has cut the frequency of bus stops on some routes. The school system, meanwhile, has asked some bus drivers to run a second route after dropping children off at school, often resulting in the second busload arriving late.

    Since 2022, the county has twice raised bus driver wages to a current rate of $17.47 an hour. The school board recently countered with a $5 increase to a minimum $20 an hour for the upcoming school year. The goal is to hire enough drivers to regularly get kids to class on time, said school system communications director Russell Bruhn.

    In Arkansas, the goal is to get foster kids into permanent homes in less than a year. But during the first three months of this year, the state met that target for just 32% of foster children — well below the national standard of over 40%. More than one-fifth of the roughly 1,400 positions in the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services are vacant.

    Many new employees leave in less than two years because of heavy caseloads and the “very difficult, emotionally tolling work,” Mischa Martin, the Department of Human Services’ deputy secretary of youth and families, told lawmakers last month.

    “If we had a knowledgeable, experienced workforce,” she said, “they would be able to work cases in a better way to get kids home quicker.”

  • 1 Aug 2023 12:51 PM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    The most recent example of the staffing and funding crisis being faced by public safety agencies across the country….


    Calaveras County fire station to be closed some days due to low staffing



    JULY 30, 2023

    VALLEY SPRINGS — "Closed due to staffing" — the message draped across a Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District station reads loud and clear.

    The chief said he has no choice.

    This weekend, the fire district was forced to brown out one of its two fire stations for a day, and more closures are ahead. Chief Rich Dickinson said that big banner, with letters written in fire engine red, is the best way to let his community know.

    Chief Dickinson said it's a decision he wishes he didn't have to make.

    "We're going to be browning out more. I decided to buy that sign, to put it upfront so that people understand the firehouse is closed and why it's closed," he told CBS Sacramento via Zoom.

    The fire district's staff is now down to just 13 firefighters, and Chief Dickinson said he's lost 40 since he started here six years ago.

    The attrition problem comes from competition and San Francisco Bay Area fire department compensation.

    "To be honest, the staff that I have left, they're working a lot of hours," Dickinson said. "And at some point, there's a breaking point."

    The Calaveras Consolidated Fire District covers 168 square miles with only two operating stations, one of which will now be closed some days due to low staffing.

    Dickinson is proposing a tax hike next year to help solve the money trouble. In the meantime, the banner will be up when this fire station is closed down.

    "I'm not being vindictive. I'm not being a chief that's trying to go 'OK, you want to play hardball?' " he said. "I don't want that. It hurts me to not have that fire station open. It hurts the board. It hurts the firefighters. Nobody feels good about that."

    Last year, Calaveras County voters denied a tax increase that would have increased funding for nine fire districts. Richardson hopes to have a new measure for his district on a ballot next spring.

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